Glen and Bessie’s Colorado River Trip, Part 2: Kolb Studio

After leaving Lee’s Ferry, the Hydes headed for Grand Canyon Village. There sought out Emery Kolb at his photographic studio, a veteran of the river who represented all Glen and Bessie wanted to achieve.

Founded in 1901, Grand Canyon Village is a historic, national park community located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, 5,000 feet above the Colorado River. Originally composed of several privately-owned businesses catering to tourists, the community eventually came under the control of the National Park Service beginning with the founding of Grand Canyon National Park in 1919. Two of this small hamlet’s early notable inhabitants were Emery and Ellsworth Kolb. The brothers moved to the area at the turn of the century, opening a photography studio in 1906, naming it “Kolb Studio.” Early on, the Kolbs found themselves in competition with the Fred Harvey Company, which possessed a monopoly over much of the Grand Canyon’s tourist industry.

To stay competitive, the Kolbs ran the Colorado River, with mixed results, to capture new photographs and films of the sites along the route. They toured the East Coast to show the film they captured and regularly displayed it back at their Studio in Grand Canyon Village. Ellsworth also wrote a book about their experiences, titled Through the Grand Canyon From Wyoming to Mexico. Further journeys into the Grand Canyon in 1921 and 1923 as part of a Government survey team gave the brothers additional renown. Though Ellsworth had departed by the time the Hydes came to the area, the business the brothers built was thriving. 

Glen and Bessie arrived in Grand Canyon Village on November 15 after a week of hard travel. They had gotten stuck several times while negotiating rapids in Marble Canyon. The force of the rapids even caused Glen to fall overboard at one point. Still, the Hydes were confident in their success, if a little tired.

Given their ultimate quest to attain fame, it was no surprise the couple sought out Emery Kolb. His experiences on the river reflected what the Hydes wanted to achieve. Kolb was happy to meet travelers and extended a warm welcome to the them. On October 16, he and his wife Blanche gave Glen and Bessie tours of the studio and the village. He also gave them a signed copy of his brother’s book, sold them a few photos to send home, and invited them to attend one of his regular lectures about his experiences in the Grand Canyon. Emery also took a few pictures of the couple outside his studio. The Hydes left Grand Canyon Village the next day.

In the years following Glen and Bessie’s disappearance, the Great Depression hit Kolb Studio hard. The studio also entered a decades-long feud with the Fred Harvey Company and with the National Park Service, which wanted to demolish the Kolb Studio. In 1962, Emery finally reached an agreement with the NPS, with the agency agreeing to maintain the property upon his death. Emery Kolb passed away in 1976 at the age of 96. True to its word, the National Park Service continues to maintain Kolb Studio in Grand Canyon Village.

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Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023